Tyson Team Member, Jenise Huffman is currently "on loan," working with Millennium Promise, addressing hunger and poverty in Africa. She sends this report from Rwanda.
So I’m back in Africa doing what I love, and I thought I’d tell you a bit about it since some of you asked me to send updates while I’m here…
I’m in Rwanda doing a feasibility study, evaluating the potential for a poultry enterprise for the women of the Millennium Villages and the schools so that the women could have an income and the children could have protein in their diets in a school-meals program. I’m sure you all know this because I talk about it a lot, but my CEO at Tyson, Dick Bond, generously agreed to donate the technical expertise in poultry rearing to the Millennium Villages project (Millennium Promise’s project that I work on in NY) in order to increase the incomes of the farmers and women, as well as adding protein to their diets. These people currently have NO protein in their diets. None whatsoever. So the children are stunted (growth) because protein is required for skeletal growth before the age of 5. Additionally, protein deficiencies cause all sorts of other problems for both the children and the adults. Also, many of these people make $0.50 a day. That will increase dramatically when they have poultry to sell because Rwanda has a huge demand for poultry and very, very little supply. That causes the market prices to be very high. An egg costs $0.21 in a grocery store in Kigali (capital city), and so 2 eggs would take the entire day’s wages for many people. As you can see, they would benefit from increased supply of eggs and poultry meat, which sells for $10 a pound.
Today I visited a memorial for the genocide of 1994. Somewhere between 800,000 – 1 million people were killed in just 100 days. This memorial was a church where Tutsi’s were hiding for safety because they thought the Hutu’s wouldn’t kill them in a church. The Hutu’s killed 10,000 people in that church in 1 day (in a couple hours, actually). There were only 2 survivors – children who were underneath dead bodies. After that, the Hutus continued killing the Tutsi’s in this district and took 40,000 bodies to that church to be disposed of. They also threw most bodies in the river here in this district. Inside the church, which is still riddled with bullet holes, the clothes that all 10,000 people were wearing when they were killed there are laying on the pews (wooden benches). There’s still blood on the table cloth that covers the top of the alter – they killed some people by smashing them repeatedly into the alter. That was just 14 years ago. Not a single conversation that I have had with anyone in Rwanda ended without them mentioning the genocide. Everything is marked as before or after the genocide. In the district where our Millennium Villages are, there were 80,000 Tutsi’s, but in a matter of a few days, all of them were murdered except for about 1,800. The survivors lost their families and a bit of their soul. The eyes of the survivors are still so sad and so hollow. I just don’t want to believe that I live in a world where people do this to each other – and worse yet, America knew and did nothing to help them. That was the biggest failure of the Clinton Administration, in my opinion.
I was told by one of the Millennium Village project employees here today that he knew Hutu husbands who killed their own wives because they were Tutsi, and then they killed their own children because they had some Tutsi blood in them. He said they did this because the government told them to. How do governments gain such evil control over people’s minds? Hitler did. Mao did. The President of Sudan is doing that right now.
The project that I’m working on is going well. There is much opportunity here in Rwanda. President Kagame is determined to make a new Rwanda, a reconciled Rwanda. Rwanda is more developed than any of the other countries I have visited in Sub-Saharan Africa. That’s not to say they are wealthy – most of the people here are still making $1 – $2 a day. The farmers in our villages, though, are improving their lives and building concrete homes (still only 1 room, but at least they are concrete instead of mud).
The rains are coming. Rainy season starts in September. I hope I make it across the border to Uganda before they hit. The skies have looked ominous the past couple days.
Well, it’s late here, and I have a lot to do tomorrow, so I need to get some sleep. I’m not sleeping well because it’s so hot in my room without any air conditioning (and not even a fan), and also the staff cleans all night long, sweeping the walkways because dust is always everywhere. They are quite noisy talking to each other as they work at 3 am. My walls are about 2 millimeters thick.
I’ll be going to Uganda on September 4th to do the same work that I am doing in Rwanda.
Bye for now. Time to try to sleep. Wish me luck!